Companies need an effective way to create and implement content so that it's accurate, insightful, and timely. What does content strategy include? Where should planning documents live? In this episode, we are discussing how companies can develop strategic and compelling content plans.
INTRO: Building a great company is a marathon not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and the team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders that are always upping their game. If you're ready to build scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
KRISTA: All right. Welcome, everyone. Today we have Kristen May joining us. She is an expert at content writing strategies to gain awareness, boost conversions and build a customer base. She also loves listening to the Grammar Girl podcast and sharing insights with other marketers regarding content development and planning. And today, we're going to be talking about how to actually make a content calendar. Welcome, Kristen.
KRISTEN: Hi. Thanks for having me, Krista.
KRISTA: Absolutely. So tell me, what is a content calendar or editorial calendar? Just baseline.
KRISTEN: Yeah. So whether you call it a content calendar or editorial calendar, my preference is content calendar. It's just, it's a calendar that provides a bird's eye view of your content over the course of a year. So it could be a literal calendar or it could be a software, or SaaS platform that you use, or a Google spreadsheet, which is my preference. I do like working with Google spreadsheets, but it helps keep your content marketing strategy organized and strategic. And it just helps to keep things on track and on time. So in a nutshell, that's what I content calendar is.
KRISTA: Good just laying the groundwork for everybody so we're all on the same page. So why is it important to spend time making this calendar? Because I know when I have tried to make them in the past, it can really be time-consuming.
KRISTEN: Yeah, it can. But there's so much value to it. It provides a clear, calculated content path to keep your company on course. It ensures that your content is targeted and is helpful at every level of the buyer's journey for your target personas. It reduces the need to be reactive and the tendency that we have as marketers to haphazardly pull together content at the very time it's needed.
KRISTA: Yes. Oh, my gosh. Yes. Yes. A client called this came out. We need to make sure we address this immediately.
KRISTEN: Yeah. And it's the nature of the beast. And there's room in place for those things. But the content calendar is going to help your business grow because it's your plan and your process for getting new and helpful content out to the world consistently. So not that you can't. Not that it's your hard and fast Bible and you can't work from outside of it, things come up and you move things around. But it's definitely a smart and strategic way of-of plotting your your-your plan and your process. To make sure you're getting good stuff out there regularly.
KRISTA: Gotcha, Gotcha. Yeah. I mean, that definitely seems like it would take some of the stress out, or some of the worry out. So now one of the hardest things is, you know, going to think, oh, I need to create content. And then you're looking at a blank sheet of paper and it's like, what do I do? You know, I feel like.
KRISTEN: That's the worst.
KRISTA: Yes. Yes, absolutely. So having something like, you know, having a process, having a calendar in place would really help hopefully minimize some of that, like writer's block, I guess, for lack of a better way to kind of describe that. Definitely. So what do you need to use a content calendar for? So you make these calendars, what do you really what are you really doing? What are you really going to utilize this for?
KRISTEN: So, you know, I think about my daughter when she has all of her toys out in her room and I say, "babe, it's time to clean up." You know, it's time for bed or it's time for dinner. And she just kind of she just starts putting things in-in places they're not away. And I often say to her, like, babe, each thing has the place that it lives. The Barbies go in the house, the toy horses go in the barn. Everything has a place where it lives. And your content calendar is where your content plans live.
KRISTEN: It houses your plans for your blog posts, your videos, your emails, content offers social posts, you know, all of that. And it's an asset that the entire marketing team should be able to access and use and find. It keeps everybody on the same page working towards the same goals, which is always helpful.
KRISTA: Yeah, seems like one centralized place where people go, can go to find what they need to know about content.
KRISTEN: Yes, just like the Barbie lives in the Barbie mansion. We know that our-our blog lives in the content calendar. Right?
KRISTA: I love it. I'm going to have you come to my house and help organize my kids' stuff. They do the same thing.
KRISTEN: I love that stuff.
KRISTA: I'm like, that's fine.
KRISTEN: No. Nope. Everything has, everything has a house, every place. Everything has a place to live.
KRISTA: I love that. OK. So who needs to use a content calendar? Is it you know, is it a certain type of business, a certain type of employee like who really kind of works with us?
KRISTEN: So this is my motto. This is my cheer. If I were a cheerleader, I would be having my pom-poms in my hands and my little sneakers on jumping up or down, saying "every business in every industry should be creating and implementing a content calendar." Everybody. It doesn't matter what-what sector or what business. Everybody, everybody can benefit from having a content calendar.
KRISTA: Awesome. Cool. OK. So let's kind of get down into the nitty-gritty of like what really this is. So what are some of the components of a content calendar or your content calendar specifically that you use, Kristen?
KRISTEN: Yeah. So different strokes for different folks. But what works really well for us. I mentioned we do use Google spreadsheets for our, for our content calendars. We utilize the feature of tabs within that spreadsheet. So there will be a tab that is dedicated to the blog, a tab that's dedicated to email, a tab dedicated to social and so on and so forth. In the blog tab we will have for each blog post, the date that it's going to go out, or the week that it's targeted to go out. For a particular, for each blog post we have the target persona, the buyer... buyer's journey stage that we're looking to address in the blog post, the topic or working title, the keyword for that post, the pillar page or the page website page. We want to drive readers to go to when they're done reading the post, a CTA. We use HubSpot, so I want to utilize all the tools within HubSpot, and that means assigning a campaign to blog posts, tags. Anything else that you want associated with a blog post can live there. So in the blog tab, I have every week of the month listed out and for every week of the month or every other week, depending on your blog-blogging cadence. I have all of these pieces for each post there. There, right?
KRISTEN: So it's quick and easy to reference. It's clear. So the next tab would be, for us would be email. I have the date and the week, I have the email list or the segment that we're going to be sending the email to, the contents of that email. Some are going to be topic centric. And so I'll just list what the post idea will be or what the email idea will be. Other times it's a newsletter and so you have different segments and just even listing what those segments are going to be within a newsletter would be helpful there. I actually like to include the subject line and the preview text and then the big call to action that you want them to take.
KRISTA: I see.
KRISTEN: Keeping all of that there just gives a — keeps it neat and organized as we talked about. But it's also a great quick look of what you're covering within the course of a month, quarter and then the whole year.
KRISTA: That probably helps with consistency as well, kind of having that quick view of like, are we talking about the same things across different platforms, are we giving the same messages, that kind of thing?
KRISTEN: Absolutely. Yeah. That's a really good point. I also like to have a column that's dedicated to the links. So when the blog post goes live, I throw that link into the content calendar. So all in one fell swoop. I see who this is... When it was going out, you know. Who it was for, where in the buyer's journey, target, the target keyword. And then there's the link to the actual live blog post. You can do that. Do the same thing with your email. Now it would be the link to the web version of your email, but it's just so nice and neat to have it all there.
KRISTA: Well, I was gonna say you almost have like a living content audit at that point. If you've got everything in there, you know, and then you're not having to spend all that time going back and recreating that once a year to figure out what did I do. It's all right there.
KRISTEN: Ding, ding, ding. Yes, you're exactly right. So doing a lot of this homework upfront helps in the long run in a big way. You don't have to go back, spend hours digging up and researching what you've done. Right? For your content audit, because it's right there because you've been faithfully doing it all along.
KRISTEN: I want to mention to you real quick the social tab. A lot of people think why in the world would we plan out all of our social posts? Social posts are supposed to be more timely, more relevant, more here and now. Sure, they can be. But there is something to be said about still planning ahead for social. There are, because you don't want the same posts going out all the time. So if you can see the sequence of it, so maybe you're doing your sharing an article from another website. You're sharing a fun fact or asking a question. You're linking to an old blog post. You're pushing a content offer. Seeing it in that spreadsheet lets you know you're having a very, a variation of information that you're sending out that would be helpful. And again, as we mentioned earlier, that doesn't mean that you can't post timely things or in that moment, if you're at a tradeshow, you're at an event, you're-you know, you could still post live, but that's not messing up with you getting things out on a regular basis that's going to provide value and be helpful to your social followers.
KRISTA: Well and I think to add to that point, you know, I talk to so many people that social becomes this huge burden. Right, because it's like, oh, I have to do this all, you know, in real-time. And what am I going to write about? What am I going to say? Well doing it this way allows you to preplan at least a good portion of it. And then you still can sub-in for when you're actually doing something in real-time that you want to post about. Take a little bit of that stress away and being able to kind of bulk figure some of this out.
KRISTEN: Absolutely. Yeah. And even in that-that spreadsheet, as we use, you know, you can write your different post for Facebook or "Tweetter", Twitter or LinkedIn or Instagram and Twitter. "Tweetter" it's another social platform that I'm going to be inventing, guys. So get on board now. But just even be able to see seeing how you are, you're posting. How your words are just a little bit different from platform to platform, even though you might be covering the same topic or subject. You're saying things just a little bit differently to resonate with that audience. Yeah. So when you see all that stuff in a spreadsheet, when at first glance it might seem overwhelming when you look at it more closely, it makes sense and it's structured and it's methodical. I mean, all these things I love. I'm an organizer by nature, but. Yeah.
KRISTA: So how often are you doing this? Is this a weekly, monthly? How often do you kind of go through this process?
KRISTEN: Yeah, that's a great question. So, again, this might vary from-from person to person, group to group, company to company. But for us, it is helpful to look at blog posts, content offers, videos to determine those things quarterly and then emails and social posts. We kind of look at those more monthly, but the calendar as a whole, I-we're looking at that on a regular, consistent basis. Just, you know, updating links of a blog post goes live, switching things out if it isn't necessarily relevant anymore, but just kind of keeping a pulse. We have a plan in place, but because of that, we have the flexibility of swapping things if we have to if it makes more sense.
KRISTEN: So we look at it regularly. But as far as planning, the bigger items are quarterly and then more timely things like e-mails, social posts would be monthly.
KRISTA: Gotcha. OK. So when we're thinking about picking titles, I'm guessing this isn't like drawing titles out of a hat. There's probably some, you know, way you figure out or decide, you know, what you're going to write about and kind of what that format is.
KRISTEN: Well, I really do like your idea of choosing titles out of a hat because that would be really interesting and fun. And who knows what you're going to get. But yeah, it's not, it's not really beneficial or productive or valuable right at the end of the day. So for us, before the start of every quarter, three weeks to a month in advance, I meet with our client success managers — or people would call account managers — and we would begin to plan for the upcoming quarter. So they bring their knowledge of the client to the table and I'm bringing some homework and research to the table.
KRISTEN: So every quarter we consider what's new for the client. Their biggest challenges, their wins, what their customers and prospects are saying. We even visit the client's traction plan to see if we're on track. And their traction plan is a piece that we do internally that identifies their marketing KPI and their business goals for the year. So we'd like to keep that in front of us, too, as we're planning. As far as what I look at, you know, HubSpot or Google Analytics, whatever I or whatever I have access to, to see traffic, website traffic and conversion rates. I look at other key metrics like blog posts performances, you know, how they've done over the quarter of the keyword analysis, content gaps. I try to, I look at the competitors, you know, their competitors and see what they're writing about. Then together, we'll take this information. The-the CSM, the client success manager and I, and we'll just brainstorm. We'll come up with a list of potential ideas that we can think of based on these discoveries. These things that we uncovered. And then from there, we whittle down the list to the best and the most timely options. Then we'll share them with the client. And in this mix, there's blog post ideas maybe and ideas for us, a blog post series or an e-book or white paper, video ideas come out of this time. Email ideas. It's just so, it's so much.
KRISTEN: It's definitely enough to substantially fill a quarter with helpful and valuable content that we know is worthwhile.
KRISTEN: So I mean, it takes time to do all of this, but once this whittled down and cost, a client approved list is done. We move that to the content calendar where the specifics are ironed out. Like for each thing. So for the blog posts, like we talked about earlier, I'm going to have a working title. I'm going to have who the pieces targeting, those target personas, the stage of the buyer's journey that the blog post is addressing. The key word that cleared helpful CTA that we want to associate with that blog post. So and then if it's a content offer, working through that same thing within the content calendar. Same with email and social. So once the specifics are in the content calendar, you know, each piece then has its own development process. So, for instance, who is writing these pieces? Who's editing them, proofreading them, staging them, designing or adding the graphics to these pieces? So that's a whole other episode. I'd love to be back on with you to talk through. But, so going back, though, to the big idea, of content development and the content calendar creation process. For us, a TANK, these processes are very methodical and they are data-driven, but they are also human because we understand that producing content that's written for people like they need to be genuine and helpful. It is so important, if not more than catering to search engines and the algorithms.
KRISTEN: So, the core of inbound marketing is attracting, engaging and delighting people, not spamming them or publishing website content that's so keyword-stuffed that it's actually distracting and frustrating to read.
KRISTA: Sure. So we've all seen that.
KRISTEN: Right. Yeah. We absolutely have it. So off-putting and because our goal is to be helpful. Is to provide content that solves problems and answers questions. And at the end of the day compels people to invest in our brand and our services or our client's brand and their services or products. So there you have it in a nutshell.
KRISTA: Very well put, Kristen.
KRISTEN: Well, we talked about it in like just the past few minutes. That literally takes us hours.
KRISTEN: But it creating a content calendar and doing the strategizing that leads up to the content calendar does seem like a lot of work. And it is. But it's always and in every instance worth it. Knowing who you need to target with what message and on what platform and in what way is essential in attracting and engaging potential customers. So I want to say it again. I said at the beginning when I put on my little cheerleader outfit and have my pom-poms, every business and every industry should be creating and implementing a content calendar as part of their business growth plan.
KRISTA: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Kristen. You've given us just a whole bunch of knowledge today on how to create these, these documents and really take advantage of them. We appreciate your time. Encourage people to go back and re-listen to this episode if you need to take some additional notes on what some of these pieces are, because this was definitely very, very insightful. Thank you so much for your time today, Kristen.
KRISTEN: Yeah, my pleasure.
KRISTA: Hope everyone enjoyed it. And remember to rate review and subscribe. Thanks, everyone.
Co-founder & VP, Client Services
Krista also has more than a decade of professional experience under her belt. Her expertise lies in graphic design, project management, and digital marketing for both high-profile and growing businesses. Currently, she functions as the VP of Client Services and lead strategist.
Building a great company is a marathon, not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and her team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders dedicated to growing better through continuous improvement. If you’re ready to build repeatable and scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
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